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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch (Leiden 1606 - 1669 Amsterdam)
A Standing Old Man
Work Type
c. 1638
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Brown ink on antique laid paper probably toned with light brown wash, framing line in brown ink
18 x 10.2 cm (7 1/16 x 4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • collector's mark: lower left, black ink, stamp: L. 2423 (Thomas Banks)
  • watermark: none


Recorded Ownership History
Thomas Banks, London (L. 2423, lower left), by bequest to; Mrs. Lavinia Forster, London, by bequest to; Ambrose Poynter, London (L. 161, without his mark), by bequest to; Edward John Poynter, London (L. 874, without his mark), sold; [Sotheby's, London, 24-25 April 1918, lot 280, for £31.-.-]; to [P. & D. Colnaghi, London.] [Duveen Brothers, New York], sold; to Meta and Paul J. Sachs, Cambridge, MA, by 1927 (without his mark, L. 2091); Bequest of Meta and Paul J. Sachs, 1965.213.

Published Text

Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums
William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson
Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016)

Standing Old Man belongs to a group of technically and stylistically related studies executed by Rembrandt in iron-gall ink on paper prepared with a light brown wash.1 A key work for the attribution and dating of these drawings is Ruth and Naomi in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (Fig. 1).2 It bears on its verso a composition sketch for Rembrandt’s 1638 etching Joseph Telling His Dreams, which establishes the authorship and approximate date of the study on the recto.3 The technique of the Harvard drawing closely resembles that of Ruth and Naomi. The tightly spaced parallel lines that shade Ruth’s face are comparable to the fine zigzag hatchings in the lower right part of the drapery in the Harvard study, as are the wide, heavily impressed outlines in the left shoulder, upper arm, and sleeve of the old man and in the back of Naomi’s garment. Compare also the looping strokes and broken contours that evoke the movement of the sleeves dangling from outstretched arms in both drawings. Finally, Rembrandt structured Naomi’s drapery and that of the old man with long, vertical lines drawn with a reed pen.4

The costume, patriarchal beard, and dismissive sweep of the right arm recall figures of Abraham in scenes of Abraham casting out Hagar, and the Harvard study has been related to Rembrandt’s 1637 etching of that subject.5 Although the two works are close in date, the pose of the man in the drawing is only vaguely similar to Abraham’s stance in the etching, so the Harvard work should not be considered a direct study for the print. Werner Sumowski proposed that Gottfried Kneller adapted the figure from the drawing for his painting Abraham Casting Out Hagar, from around 1670 (Fig. 2).6 Kneller studied in the 1660s with Rembrandt’s pupil Ferdinand Bol, which led Sumowski further to suggest that the drawing might be by Bol.7 While the Harvard study and Kneller’s picture share certain details, notably the gesture of Abraham’s left hand, the connection is less compelling than Sumowski implies. In the painting, Abraham is seen from a lower viewpoint and more in profile than in the drawing; he wears a turban rather than a beret and strides vigorously down a stair toward Hagar. Whether or not Kneller knew the drawing, the similarity of its technique to that of Ruth and Naomi and other studies of the late 1630s secures its attribution to Rembrandt and rules out an alternative attribution to Bol.

A facsimile print by Conrad Martin Metz (1755–1827) reproduces the drawing in reverse.8 It includes the mark of Thomas Banks (1735–1805). The content and typography of the caption, Rembrandt. / Apud C. M. Edm, resemble those of the captions beneath images in Metz’s 1798 publication of facsimiles, Imitations of Ancient and Modern Drawings from the Restoration of the Arts in Italy to the Present Time, but this reproduction is not included there.


1 This group of drawings includes, among others: Otto Benesch, The Drawings of Rembrandt, enlarged and edited by Eva Benesch (Oxford, 1973), vol. 1, cats. 85, 157, 161, and 168, and vol. 2, cats. 203, 218–19, 223, 232, 391, 396, 404, and 423; Peter Schatborn, Drawings by Rembrandt, His Anonymous Pupils and Followers. Catalogue of the Dutch and Flemish Drawings in the Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijksmuseum, Vol. 4 (The Hague, 1985), cat. 13; and Nicholas Turner, European Drawings 4: Catalogue of the Collections (J. Paul Getty Museum Los Angeles, 2001) Available online as PDF (consulted 10 May 2014), cat. 48. For the authenticity and dating of these drawings, see Schatborn, under cat. 5, p. 35, and Martin Royalton-Kisch and Peter Schatborn, “The Core Group of Rembrandt Drawings, II: The List,” in Master Drawings, vol. 49, no. 3 (Fall 2011): 323–46, cats. 38, 40, 41, and 44, pp. 335–37. Due to the discoloration of the Harvard sheet from light exposure, it is not possible to verify definitively that the recto was prepared with brown wash before Rembrandt drew on it with his pen. No brushstrokes from the application of wash are visible. That said, other drawings in the group are very lightly toned and their preparation is now barely distinguishable, so it is most likely the Harvard drawing sheet, too, was lightly toned. My thanks to Penley Knipe for examining the drawing with me.

2 Rembrandt van Rijn, Ruth and Naomi (Fig. 1). Brown ink on light brown prepared paper. (Verso: Joseph Telling His Dreams; red chalk). 180 × 125 mm. Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, MB 1958/T 32. Jeroen Giltaij, Drawings by Rembrandt and His School in the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen (Rotterdam 1988), vol. 2, cat. 13, pp. 60–61.

3 Giltaij, p. 60; Royalton-Kisch and Schatborn, cat. 40, pp. 335–36.

4 Agnes Mongan and Paul J. Sachs (Drawings in the Fogg Museum of Art: A Critical Catalogue, Cambridge, 1940, vol. 1, p. 277) doubted the attribution of the Harvard drawing to Rembrandt, suggesting that it could be the work of a pupil corrected by the master. Otto Benesch (The Drawings of Rembrandt, Oxford, 1954–57, vol. 1, cat. 143, p. 39) and later authors rightly assigned it to Rembrandt.

5 Benesch (1954–57), vol. 1, cat. 143, p. 39; Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann and Felice Stampfle, Rembrandt Drawings from American Collections (New York: Pierpont Morgan Library; Cambridge: Fogg Art Museum, 1960), cat. 19, p. 19; Benesch (1973), vol. 1, cat. 143, p. 41. For the etching, see Erik Hinterding and Jaco Rutgers in New Hollstein, Rembrandt, text part 2, no. 166, pp. 22–23, and pls. part 2, no. 166, p. 76. In the catalogue of the sale of Sir Edward Poynter (see “Provenance”), the subject was identified as “An old man with a beard stretching out his hand as if blind; possibly a study for Tobit.” Mongan and Sachs (vol. 1, cat. 526, p. 277) repeated but rejected that interpretation, adding that the figure’s “patriarchal dignity” was more appropriate for Abraham or a prophet than for Tobit.

6 Gottfried Kneller, Abraham Casting Out Hagar (Fig. 2). Oil on canvas. 253 × 183 cm. Munich, Alte Pinakothek, 376. See Werner Sumowski (“Bemerkungen zu Otto Beneschs Corpus der Rembrandt‑Zeichnungen I.” Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Humbolt‑Universität zu Berlin, Gesellschafts‑ und sprachwissenschaftliche Reihe, vol. 6, no. 4, 1956–57: 255–81, p. 264, and p. 281, repr. fig. 59), citing the traditional attribution of the picture to Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, and later attributing it to Kneller (Werner Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt‑Schüler in vier Bänden, Landau, Germany, 1983), vol. 3, cat. 976, p. 1487, repr. p. 1500 [as Kneller], and vol. 6, cat. III–976, p. 3619). Douglas J. Stewart (“Sir Godfrey Kneller as Painter of ‘Histories’ in Portraits historiés,” in David Howard, ed., Art and Patronage in the Caroline Courts: Essays in Honour of Sir Oliver Millar, Cambridge, UK, 1993, pp. 243–63, pp. 246– 47) accepted Sumowski’s attribution of the painting to Kneller and dated it to circa 1670.

7 Sumowski (1983), vol. 3, under cat. 976, p. 1487.

8 An impression of the original print is in the boxes of reproductions of Rembrandt drawings in the Witt Library, the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, although with no supporting documentation about the print’s publication or source.


Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Meta and Paul J. Sachs
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Style and Technique: Their Interrelation in Western European Painting, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1936), cat. no. 44, p. 52, repr. pl. XX, fig. 44
  • Agnes Mongan and Paul J. Sachs, Drawings in the Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, 1940), vol. 1, cat. no. 526, p. 277, repr. vol. 2, fig. 270 as Rembrandt (?)
  • An Exhibition of Dutch and Flemish Drawings and Watercolors, checklist, Unpublished (1954), cat. no. 53, p. 13, as Rembrandt (?)
  • Otto Benesch, The Drawings of Rembrandt, Phaidon Press (Oxford, 1954 - 1957), vol. 1, cat. no. 143, pp. 39-40, repr. fig. 157
  • Werner Sumowski, "Bemerkungen zu Otto Beneschs Corpus der Rembrandt-Zeichnungen I", Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Humbolt-Universität zu Berlin, Gesellschafts- und sprachwissenschaftliche Reihe (1956-1957), vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 255-81, p. 264, repr. p. 281, fig. 58
  • Jakob Rosenberg, Review of Otto Benesch, "The Drawings of Rembrandt," vols. I-II, The Art Bulletin (March 1956), vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 63-70, p. 68
  • Felice Stampfle and Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann, Rembrandt Drawings from American Collections, exh. cat., The Morgan Library & Museum (New York, NY, 1960), cat. no. 19, pp. 18-19, repr. pl. 15, fig. 19
  • Agnes Mongan, Memorial Exhibition: Works of Art from the Collection of Paul J. Sachs [1878-1965]: given and bequeathed to the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, exh. cat., Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, 1965), p. 206
  • Norman Laliberté and Alex Mogelon, Drawing with Ink: History and Modern Techniques, Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. (New York, 1970), p. 18, repr.
  • Otto Benesch, The Drawings of Rembrandt [enlarged ed.], Phaidon Press (Oxford, 1973), vol. 1, cat. no. 143, p. 41, repr. fig. 172
  • Seymour Slive, "Rembrandt at Harvard", Apollo (June 1978), vol. 107, no. 196, pp. 452-463, pp. 453-454, repr. p. 454, fig. 2
  • Werner Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler in vier Banden (Landau, 1983), vol. 3, under cat. no. 976, p. 1487
  • Edward Saywell, "Guide to Drawing Terms and Techniques", Harvard University Art Museums Bulletin, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1998), vol. VI, no. 2, pp. 30-39, p. 33, under "Iron-gall ink"
  • Ivan Gaskell, Rembrandt and the Aesthetics of Technique, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2006), checklist
  • The Drawings of Rembrandt: a revision of Otto Benesch's catalogue raisonné, website, 2012, Benesch 143
  • William W. Robinson and Susan Anderson, Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: Highlights from the Collection of the Harvard Art Museums, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2016), p. 15; cat. no. 68, pp. 231-233, repr. p. 232
  • Peter Schatborn and Erik Hinterding, Rembrandt: The Complete Drawings and Etchings, Taschen (Cologne, 2019), cat. no. D329, p. 222, repr.

Exhibition History

  • Style and Technique: Their Interrelation in Western European Painting, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 06/01/1936 - 12/31/1936
  • Drawings from the Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University (Collected by Paul J. Sachs), Century Club, New York, 05/12/1947 - 09/25/1947
  • An Exhibition of Dutch and Flemish Drawings and Watercolors, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/01/1954 - 04/30/1954
  • Rembrandt Drawings from American Collections, The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 03/15/1960 - 04/16/1960; Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/27/1960 - 05/29/1960
  • Rembrandt: A Selection of his Works, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 10/18/1984 - 12/11/1984
  • Rembrandt and His School: Drawings from the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen Rotterdam, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 12/02/1989 - 01/28/1990
  • Rembrandt and the Aesthetics of Technique, Harvard University Art Museums, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 09/09/2006 - 12/10/2006
  • Rembrandt Prints & Drawings, Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Wellesley, 11/05/2008 - 12/14/2008
  • Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016

Subjects and Contexts

  • Dutch, Flemish, & Netherlandish Drawings

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at